You throw off your paper hat after a long day. You’ve sweat through the (already) funny smelling Chinese-made underwear you bought on Amazon and you rip a healthy crop-dust across the parking lot as you walk to your mom’s minivan. You’re done, and for an hour or two you can do whatever you want. You’ve got it all at your finger tips like some kind of evolved-assed Star Trek race and your first instinct is to see what everyone else is doing while you get high in the backseat while the line at In-N-Out honks and douches out next to you. Your whole life on that phone is a ‘not on the menu’ fuckin’ special “Monster” burger for a minute until ‘they’ land in the university nearby and announce: They came for us. The mania, the madness, the already depraved enough valley erupts around you (as best it can, traffic eh) while your dumb ass is in soggy underwear and too high to drive. “What about that tape man?” Whats a tape, man? While you’re Googling up whatever streaming service you use to cheapen the entire industry with your fickle interest for the wrong kind of jam ‘they’ are out there and the screams are getting closer. Your search history for cheap rolling papers auto-fills your results, you hit play and the damned Zig Zags are already guiding you through the maelstrom with ten hits to help you remember what music was while you’re hiding from ‘them’ and their patrols in the rafters of the Northridge Fashion Center ruins. Ancient proto-metallic punk ‘n roll thuds from ear-to-ear taking you from the garage to the stadium in the space of one song. This is all that -needs- to remain of humanity as the nuclear dust from the alien apocalypse settles in.
The immediate and steel-jawed energetics of Exodus‘ ‘Bonded by Blood’ and Metallica‘s ‘Kill ’em All’ slicks the path towards abrupt slashes of metallic skatecore monsters like early Suicidal Tendencies (“The Shout”) or The Shrine and the similarly garage-punked rip of Jody Seabody & the Whirls as these Los Angeles, California kick-flippin’ and lid flickin’ metal-punks Zig Zags raise a heavier, hotter holy hell on their third full-length. They’ve gone one step further beyond their usual psychedelia infused garage punk/metal sound by focusing a bit harder on heavier influences this time around. From the existential drought of The Wipers (“Nothing to Do”, “No Way Out”) and the coal-coughing heaviness of early Black Sabbath (“God Sized”, “Ms .45”), ‘They’ll Never Take Us Alive’ is punk rock to the point of punk n’ roll and proto-heavy metal all the same, a speed metal jolted blender that could only exist with the late 70’s and early 80’s in the rear-view mirror. If that was a lot to take in, I think that’d exemplify the core charm of Zig Zags in a nutshell, they’re a lot and they go hard with a thousand smart-ass references yet it is all done in good taste and good fun.
If the mission statement of “Punk Fucking Metal” that kicks things off wasn’t clear enough the Mystic Records crossover meets Bay Area pump of “Killer of Killers” and “Fallout” should make this an ear-turner for fans of crossover hardcore and thrashers who’d probably never heard of Zig Zags prior. I try to stay fairly keyed into underground Los Angeles area stuff but I can be counted among those who’d discover this band with their signing to RidingEasy Records and their speed-slinging acid punk and psychedelic skater-banger presence is a pretty razor sharp fit for where they’ve landed. The guitar tone is dirty, the bass can go from early Sabbath clank to 80’s hardcore clunk, and the atmosphere is thick with the smoke of a burning Dodge Caravan in the desert halfway to Bakersfield. ‘They’ll Never Takes Us Alive’ might appear to have some amount of stylistic ADHD between its thrashier side and the jerky acid punk n’ roll they often lead with but I found it’d serve to balance out the constipated toughness that comes with metal riffing and keep things flowing throughout. It’d seem trite if they hadn’t gone for it on the B-side and went a as space-faring as possible building up to the title track, which could’ve fit in perfectly on any of their previous records but expresses in a bigger way here.
Zig Zags have pushed their way up onto another level through sheer force and thankfully ‘They’ll Never Take Us Alive’ sounds accomplished with a naturally built upon sound and even a few halfway serious bangers as it whips to and fro on a full listen. I spun this album a few times a day from the moment I first heard it and though the first five were to feel that hint of early 80’s speed metal mania it was ultimately my appreciation for the garage punk/psyche side of things that kept me coming back to re-experience the juxtaposition and the jam of it all. As such I can highly recommend this album while offering the caveat that they’re not going at it ‘metal as fuck’ without going head-on, full-bore, aluminum hat metal. For preview I’d first suggest my two favorite sides of this many-sided coin between “Killer of Killers” for speed metal energy and “Nothing to Do” for its ‘Youth of America’ era Wipers vibe, then if you’re still unsure the pairing of “The Shout” and “Why I Carry a Knife” locked this one down for me otherwise.
To walk alone at night. 4.25/5.0
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